NEW YORK: Six more women have stepped forward to accuse influential CBS chairman Leslie Moonves of sexual harassment and assault, as reports circulated that his negotiated departure from the network might be imminent.
The New Yorker reported on Sunday (Sep 9) that the women say they were harassed or assaulted between 1980 and the early 2000s by Moonves, who in more than two decades with the network helped lift it from last place to profitable status as America's most-watched.
The accusations were more serious than those from six other women who The New Yorker reported in July had accused Moonves of unwanted touching or kissing. Dozens of other women have complained that sexual misconduct was tolerated in parts of the company.
The latest article by Ronan Farrow, whose reporting about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein helped spark the #metoo movement against sexual abuse, quotes the new group of women as saying Moonves forced them, at times violently, to perform oral sex on him, or that he exposed himself to them.
One of them, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, filed a complaint last year with Los Angeles police, saying he had forced her to perform fellatio on him and thrown her violently against a wall.
The police found her accusations credible, according to Farrow, but told her the statutes of limitation for the crimes had expired because the alleged abuse took place too long ago.
The New Yorker said Moonves had, in a statement, acknowledged three of the encounters but said they were consensual and occurred "before I came to CBS."
TERMS OF DEPARTURE
Following the earlier allegations, Moonves and CBS have spent weeks negotiating the terms of his departure, according to US news media.
Financial news network CNBC said the talks are now near completion, with both parties hoping to complete them by Monday, before the stock exchanges open.
CNBC said the tentative agreement would both put a term to Moonves's employment and end a lawsuit pitting network heads against the Redstone family, whose members control an 80 per cent voting stake in CBS.
The Redstones, who wanted to merge CBS with the Viacom group - which they also control - sued CBS, saying the network had attempted to dilute their voting rights to a 20 per cent share.
Absent an earlier settlement, a trial in the matter is set to begin Oct 3 in the eastern state of Delaware.
The negotiations over Moonves' departure are said to revolve largely around the size of his severance payment.
Reports have said it could range from US$100 million in stock to the US$180 million stipulated in his contract.
But it is possible he will leave with no bonus, pending the results of an investigation into the various accusations, said CNBC, quoting sources close to the talks.
One of his accusers, Jessica Pallingston, told Farrow such a payoff would be "completely disgusting."